When reaching the city limits of many area towns, drivers are greeted by a celebration sign recognizing a town’s local school district for a state championship in a variety of sports. The Van-Far R-I School District has been blessed with its athletes winning four state championships in the past two years. Unfortunately, the Van-Far R-I School Board, though no official vote was taken, does not appear to have the same marketing vision as a way to honor its athletes.
During last week’s school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hunter addressed the board due to the City of Vandalia’s interest in a possible cost share for purchasing such signs at its city limits.
Though the discussion began with the per sign cost and trying to figure out how many signs would be needed in Vandalia as well as Farber, the board shifted the conversation to the school’s property.
Currently, there is a nice-looking sign near the front entrance celebrating the 2004 boys basketball state championship.
The discussion then centered solely on how the district could just add multiple signs on its property or how it could add additional signs to the current one.
While that tribute will still be touching, I don’t think this should be the only way to honor these athletes. When I drive through area towns that are the home of state champions from the past, the sign offers a way to quickly reminding drivers and potential future residents that they are entering a territory where some great athletes dominated a sport on a state level and reside in the district the driver is going through.
It’s the first thing you see going into a district in multiple directions. It serves as a constant reminder of what these athletes and coaches accomplished, and tells other districts coming to town that they better take notice.
It is reported that the one foot tall accomplishment plaque costs around $520 each and a maximum of three can be placed under each city limit sign, per MoDOT.
So if you combine the 2004 and 2018 boys basketball teams, the 2017 and 2018 boys track and field teams, and the 2017 cheerleading squad, there would need to be the maximum three celebration plaques per city limit entrance.
My hope is that the school board, at the very least, would be willing to authorize spending of around $1,560 at district entrances on Highway 54, with one coming into Farber from Mexico and one coming into Vandalia from Curryville. This would be a total of more than $3,100 with the City of Vandalia helping with the purchase for its city’s sign.
To me, the district should be willing to at least consider this option. And if they want to add in signs on their property as well, then so be it.
But please do not take the option off the table to put signs at the city limits of both main entrance points on Highway 54. This is the one chance to market this district like never before. While I’ve always liked the sign on the school’s property recognizing the 2004 squad, I never understood as to why no decision was made back then to honor that team with a celebration plaque on the highway. If cost is an issue, I would also hope that an option would be encouraged to allow the community to raise funds to pay for these signs.
The signs come with a 10-year agreement. If they are damaged, MoDOT will pay to replace them.
Here’s hoping the school board is willing to revisit this issue during their next meeting and be willing to at least consider the option of purchasing signs on Highway 54 to recognize these amazing accomplishments.